Review: Iron Man

By Jason Lee

June 22, 2008

I think I hid some $100 bills in here.

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Finally, a superhero movie for adults. In a marketplace inundated with comic-book inspired films that are inevitably enslaved to teenage personal crises (the Spider-Man films) and peppered with Disney Channel-friendly teenage actors (the X-Men films), director John Favreau has taken the direction that Christopher Nolan followed with Batman Begins and run with it. And what a glorious film he's created.

In my mind, Iron Man is not only one of the best superhero films of recent years, it's probably the best since the original Superman. A great deal of credit has to go to the screenwriters (of which there are four) who deftly chronicle main character Tony Stark's rise as a billionaire tycoon who heads a global weapons manufacturer and his fall as he realizes the human cost of his industry's creations. As Stark decides to use every inch of his technological savvy to rid the world of his death-inducing abominations, the movie never loses its wit or dark humor despite injections of thrilling action sequences and the tease of romance.


Downey is absolutely fantastic as Stark, creating a fully realized character that for all his pugnacious asshole qualities, turns on a disarming charm at any given moment. For all his power, Stark rarely has to compel people around him to do what he wants. Not that they don't put up a fight from time to time, as does his assistant, Pepper Potts, played brilliantly by Gwyneth Paltrow, who for all her loyalties to her boss, must struggle with the ethical question of whether or not she can morally go along with a plan that could very well be suicidal on the part of Stark. Terrence Howard also does a nice job of playing Jim Rhodes, the voice of reason to the often times unreasonable Stark. Director Jon Favreau also neatly steals a page out of George Lucas' book as Stark's two machine creations (an AI-sounding computer and a handy mechanical arm) are quite obviously inspired by C3PO and R2D2 and bring welcome doses of comedy into the mix.

But for all the adult gravitas of Paltrow and Howard and the sly humor of Stark's machines, this is Downey's picture and he is sublime. He has created a superhero that has all of the moral certitude and maturity that you never knew you wanted from a comic-book adaptation. His performance, I believe, is one for the ages and bodes well for a much-needed movie franchise for the newly created production arm of Marvel Studios. I know I'll be eagerly awaiting Iron Man's next outing . . . after all, he's just getting started.



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